For young leaders around the world, the Y20 could become a new platform to apply their idealism and creativity to the most challenging issues facing the G20.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, speaks at a meeting with representatives of the G20 Youth Summit at the economic forum in St. Petersburg, on June 20, 2013. Photo: APThis summer Russia welcomed more than a hundred young leaders from the G20 countries to the Youth-20 Summit. Y20 is, in fact, a youth-led G20 Summit, where the younger generation demonstrates its ability to apply skills and knowledge to provide a vision for the most important economic issues, just like as their adult counterparts do. The youth group is affiliated with the G20 and gathers every year on the premises of the G20 Summit host country. The proposals – communiqués – the young leaders develop are provided to the world leaders as a possible solution for the most important issues. However, it is up to the world leaders to decide if they are wiling to accept the ideas of the younger generation.
Do these meetings produce any outcomes? As Russia’s President Vladimir Putin pointed out during his address to the Y20 leadership this summer, the younger generation did well and the results were “solid” enough to produce viable outcomes. He even promised to reach out to the honorable representatives of the G20 countries with the ideas of the Y20. The Russian president paid particular attention to the idea of imposing tax on any transactions from the tax havens, but noted that the G20 leaders might “faint” at this thought.
But, frankly, is there any guarantee that these policy recommendations won’t end up in the dustbin?
I don’t want to disappoint anyone’s hopes, but the majority of the policy recommendations provided by the youth aren’t considered at all. The range of global issues and topics that were discussed this summer is stunning: financial regulation, monetary policy, government borrowing and even the regulation of tax havens. However, despite a very serious approach, the question is if these ideas really matter. The “problem” is that the young leaders are very idealistic with their vision of things and what they are eager to fight against and for, whereas the top-level policymakers are all about the bargain. This difference is the major fault line between the two leadership groups.
However, I don’t want to leave a bitter taste. Youth Summits have another important role. Consider the fact, that any top-level event has a word to say about the participants. Y20 applicants should go through a tough competition to prove their readiness to play the game, so the forum gets the cream of the crop. Young civil activists, students and entrepreneurs; the list may vary from year to year, but the essence is clear. Such events are dealing with active, young and ambitious people and give them a unique opportunity to network, interact and seek mutual understanding.
And this is what really matters. Y20 is a platform that gathers young leaders from around the world and puts them at the same table. From a long-term perspective, they might one day be sitting in the Capitol or in the Kremlin and setting their policy agendas. Today they are open-minded and eager to listen and able to understand, whether it’s about values, policy or global affairs. Once they are of the age of the current world leaders, they are very unlikely to change their minds. Why do we need this? The current state of the U.S.-Russia relations is a good example.
Edward Goldberg, expert on globalization and professor at City University of New York’s Baruch College recently expressed an opinion on The Huffington Post that U.S.-Russia relations are complicated due to the lack of economic ties between the countries. But what’s the fundamental reason for the lack of economic cooperation? It’s distrust.
Distrust is what has been continuously cultivated in the older generations. U.S.-Russia relations are in turbulence due to this generational gap. We have the older, Cold War-minded generation and the new inexperienced population of young people, who haven’t yet started forming their well-articulated positions on what Russia and the U.S. represent.
American Russophobia and Russian anti-Americanism are incurable, unless treated in a proper way. We should take the younger generation and put them on different sides of a table and let them debate on the current state of things, just like the Y20 does. There is only one option to move our relations from the “pause” position to the new “reset” -- by establishing dialogue and mutual understanding between members of the younger generation. And this is where the Y20 works. Even if the young leaders don’t find a way out of the stalemate the great minds are incapable of challenging, they’d learn to understand and work together.
How can young elites impact geopolitics?
But finally, is there any chance to link the two parties? The answer is ‘yes’. We should rethink our policy and make some simple steps to change the situation.
Empower youth. Their ideas are bright, but their voices are not heard. This is really just a matter of marketing. Everyone agrees that top diplomats, economists and policymakers are reliable sources of information, but they guarantee neither absolute truth nor creativity. The younger generation should be considered seriously and they should become a reliable resource. This is why we should empower youth by establishing a mentorship institution, so that the brightest representatives of the younger generation have a chance to work with and learn from their older colleagues.
Deliver bright ideas to the government. We are currently facing a human capital crisis; the government is grieving for the lack of well-educated people, but turning a blind eye to those who are mixing in the high-level society. The government should thoroughly analyze the ideas of the younger generation with the help of its analytical services and make sure the authors of these ideas are rewarded. Intelligence should be the most valuable asset and the emerging experts should be judged by their merits, not their social class or connections with the right people.
Foster dialogue between the generations. Both young and mature leaders should have a chance to talk and discuss the major challenges the world community is facing. A one-time meeting with a President doesn't make much sense if continuous work is not maintained. State leadership should engage and reward the younger generation by involving them in the decision making process. This is beneficial for both parties: the former get fresh, new ideas, while the latter get a social ladder.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.